Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
1 KGS 3:5, 7-12; PS 119:57, 72, 76-77, 127-130; ROM 8:28-30; MT 13:44-52 OR 13:44-46
The stewardship way of life could be described as a daily pursuit of the kingdom of heaven. Today’s readings show us the critical importance of recognizing the kingdom of heaven in our midst and prioritizing our lives in order to obtain it.
In our First Reading, from the First Book of Kings, God appears to Solomon in a dream and invites Solomon to ask Him for something he desires. Rather than asking for riches or power, Solomon asks for the gift of “an understanding heart… to distinguish right from wrong.” In other words, he asks God to help him discern what is true and therefore what really matters in life. It is no surprise that God is pleased to give him this gift and that Solomon has been known since then as the wisest of kings. God will give the same gift to us if we ask Him sincerely. And in fact, we must have a wise and understanding heart if we are to live the stewardship way of life, to guide our priorities and decision making in matters big and small.
When we pursue Godly — rather than worldly — priorities, we can do so with great peace because, as St. Paul reminds us in the Second Reading, from Romans, “all things work for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose.” All things — not just the major, life-altering decisions, but the countless tiny ones we make on a daily basis as we strive to serve the Lord and advance the kingdom of heaven.
In our Gospel passage from Matthew today, we arrive at the conclusion of three weeks of Jesus’ teaching on the kingdom of heaven. In the first of today’s parables, our Lord reminds us that living for Him and for His kingdom will be costly. But the deep joy that comes in following Him makes the “price” entailed worth it. Jesus says, “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” Next, He says the kingdom of heaven is “like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.”
In each of these stories, the kingdom of heaven is somewhat “hidden.” We must intentionally search for it amidst the noise of the world that bombards us. We need wisdom to recognize it. Yet, our Lord reminds us that His kingdom is meant for everyone and He wants us to find it! He says, “It is like a net thrown into the sea which collects fish of every kind.”
But Jesus concludes His teaching with a rather ominous image, reminding us that every “fish” will also be judged as good or bad. “The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.” This is a description that is difficult to forget. Clearly Jesus wants to get our attention.
Let us pray for the wisdom to recognize the kingdom of heaven in our midst and intensify our efforts to pursue it starting right now. There is no time to lose, and we will obtain the immeasurable joy that only comes when we live as disciples of Jesus.